I was looking for my favorite quote from the Analects of Confucius (the Lun Yu) and found it included in this more comprehensive discussion of Chinese philosophy from a 1952 book, “Bo Hu Tong; the comprehensive discussions in the White Tiger Hall.”
The Hsiao ching (Xiaojing) , translated as “Classic of Filial Piety,” is also Confucian but, though framed as a dialogue between the Master and a student, is likely fiction consistent with Confucian tradition.
The point today being that — Jeff Danziger (WPWG)’s cartoon notwithstanding — Vladimir Putin would greatly benefit if his advisors were loyal in the Confucian sense of telling him what he needs to hear instead of what he wants to hear.
Danziger’s dialogue is also imagined, but is not likely consistent with Putin’s tradition.
As it happens, Charlie Sykes hosted a Bulwark podcast Wednesday with David Priess, a former member of the CIA who wrote briefings for GHW Bush and Bill Clinton. At the 24 minute mark, Priess talks about delivering negative analysis to higher-ups in this country, which is intimidating but acceptable, versus delivering it to an autocrat like Putin, which is neither acceptable nor safe.
That portion of the conversation will explain a lot of what is going on in Moscow about now, but it breaks down to this:
In Russia, “loyalty” means telling the boss what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear.
Andy Marlette depicts the scenario accurately.
There was a gathering of about 200,000 people in a Moscow stadium this past week, mostly noted in the West for technical glitches in the audio on state television, but most interestingly in the on-the-scene reporting by the BBC, in which they found that the place was packed with people who had been ordered — or at least greatly pressured — to attend and cheer.
The interviews undercut the idea that Putin’s clampdown on the press in Russia has everyone suckered into accepting his version of events, but that certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people there who accept that it’s a military operation to stop nazi-style genocide, and that it’s going well.
However, Ward Sutton points out that we ought not to be too smug about proclaiming those Russians to be gullible, given the number of people in our own country who manage to believe six impossible things before breakfast.
People like to identify with a team, and will cheer for the home team no matter how clearly hapless it is on the field. Similarly, they want to be part of a social group and the more passionate it seems, the more endorphins it releases.
The team can lose every game, and the political group can be utterly dissociated from facts and logic, but it doesn’t matter.
The ballcaps will still sell briskly. After all, they make you feel part of a team!
Tom the Dancing Bug overstates the comparison, but (A) that’s what political cartoonists do and (B) it’s only overstated at the moment.
Let’s see how things go at the polls in 2022 and 2024 before we start analyzing whether this is hyperbole or prophecy.
After all, replacing a worn extension cord may seem like fussy over-caution, but perhaps only because the house didn’t burn down.
Juxtaposition of the Day
Crowe isn’t the only cartoonist to portray Tucker Carlson as a puppet, though I saw his version first, and it’s true that clips of Tuckyo Rose have been featured on Russia’s state television to show American support for the invasion.
But Marlette cuts closer to the bone, and I’ve been watching for news of Carlson backing off in light of the deaths of two Fox journalists and the serious wounding of another. I haven’t seen it, but I did find reports of Carlson defending his pro-Russia stance, as well as reports of him denying saying things the videotapes clearly show him saying.
It has been noted that Fox News has covered the war ethically, but Fox’s ratings aren’t for its news but for Carlson and other commentators, who make no pretense of journalistic integrity.
The monkey in the middle is the son of Fox & Friends commentator Steve Doocy, who attends White House briefings seemingly with the sole intent of harassing Jen Psaki.
Wikipedia notes that Little Petey was hired by Fox immediately upon graduation, and recalls this brilliant journalistic moment:
McCain did not have Psaki’s tact, nor did he shy away from telling people what they needed to hear instead of what they wanted to hear.
David Horsey notes that the bassackwards notion of “loyalty” as telling the boss what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear, extends to the GOP, in which Biden is attacked for not doing enough by politicians who then click their heels and vote against aid to Ukraine.
To be fair, only 31 Republicans voted against the aid package, and it is even reported that they are beginning to question the politics of their colleague, Madison Cawthorn, whose analysis of things is featured alongside Carlson’s on Russian TV.
However, party leader McCarthy, while denouncing Cawthorn’s attack on Zelensky, says that he will still support his re-election bid.
And speaking of things people need to hear rather than want to hear, being endorsed by Dear Former Leader is not all that valuable a thing these days.
Finally today, Mike Smith (KFS) explains the dilemma, not only between hawks and doves in this country, but among nations.
The good news hinted at here previously has been somewhat confirmed: China is not interested in being dragged into this mess.
The perhaps not so good news is that Poland is proposing a peacekeeping mission to Ukraine, which sounds wonderful if you don’t read what ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski actually said:
Some of us are old enough to remember LBJ’s reassurances in 1964, when gunboats sorta kinda maybe attacked us in the Gulf of Tonkin, and we needed permission to defend ourselves:
We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.
And how few were loyal enough to say what needed to be said, instead of what the president wanted to hear: